CCHU9073 Humanities
Whose Memory is it Anyway? Remembering and Forgetting in a Present-Centered World


 

Course Description

What and how do we remember, and why is remembering so important to us? We carry our past with us, but not only our individual pasts, but the entire past of our community, society, and nation. Exploring our relationship with memory will help students uncover how memory is being used, and abused, for purposes larger than the individual, and how memory serves as a foundation for identity. Located at the intersection of psychology, history, politics, and society, this course will enable students to evaluate and question their own identity with regard to politics and the state, and to understand how authoritative narratives are created, adapted, and perpetuated. Over the course of the semester, we will explore the founding myths of nations, the reflection of memory in the environment of cities, the meaning of memorials and museums, and the role of forgetting. We will explore how the brain creates memories and why they are notoriously unreliable, and we will think about the value of oral history.

Students will gain a critical view of their own identities and of the connections between the state and the individual in the form of collective memory. They will learn to identify and critically evaluate narratives of culture, history, and power in different settings, enabling them to navigate political landscapes more confidently and increasing their awareness of how past and present are connected.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

    1. Assess critically their own identities and the connections between state and individual in the form of collective memory.
    2. Identify and critically evaluate narratives of culture, history, and power in settings related to memory, such as museums and memorials, political discourse, and historical writing.
    3. Discuss complex political issues relating to memory.
    4. Convey their awareness of how past and present are connected through memory.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Fieldwork / Visits 4
Reading / Self-study 40
Assessment: Group project 18
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 26
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Field trip report 20
Group project 30
Project 30
Participation in lectures and tutorials 20

Required Reading

  • Abbas, M. A. (1997). Hong Kong: Culture and the politics of disappearance. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, [Building on Disappearance: Hong Kong Architecture and Colonial Space, pp. 63-90]
  • Beier-de Haan, R. (2006). Re-staging histories and identities. In S. Macdonald (Ed.), A companion to museum studies, pp. 186–197. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
  • Bloch, M. (2011). From ‘mémoire collective, tradition et coutume: À propos d’un livre récent’ [Collective memory, custom, and tradition: About a recent book]. In J. K. Olick, V. Vinitzky-Seroussi, & D, Levy (Eds.), The collective memory reader, pp. 150–55. Oxford [UK]: Oxford University Press.
  • Boyer, M. C. (2011). From ‘The city of collective memory: Its historical imagery and architectural entertainments. In J. K. Olick, V. Vinitzky-Seroussi, & D, Levy (Eds.), The collective memory reader, pp. 378–81. Oxford [UK]: Oxford University Press.
  • Cartwright, M. (2012). Izanami and Izanagi. Ancient History Encyclopedia. From https://www.ancient.eu/Izanami_and_Izanagi/
  • Confino, A. (December, 1997). Collective memory and cultural history: Problems of method. American Historical Review 102, 5, 1386–1403.
  • Fang, L. Z. (September 27, 1990). The Chinese Amnesia. The New York Review of Books 37, 14.
  • Halbwachs, M. (2011). From ‘The Collective Memory. In J. K. Olick, V. Vinitzky-Seroussi, & D, Levy (Eds.), The collective memory reader, pp. 139–49. Oxford [UK]: Oxford University Press.
  • Judt, T. (2007). Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945. London: Pimlico. [Epilogue: From the house of the dead, pp. 803-831]
  • Loftus, E. (June, 2013). How reliable is your memory? TED Talk. From https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_loftus_the_fiction_of_memory
  • Lucken, M. (2008). Remodelling public space: The fate of war monuments, 1945-48. In S. Saaler & W. Schwentker (Eds.), The power of memory in modern Japan, pp. 135–54. Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental.
  • Nora, P. (1989). Between memory and history: Les lieux de mémoire. Representations 26 Special Issue, Memory and Counter–Memory, 7–24.
  • Portelli, A. (2015). What makes oral history different. In R. Perks & A. Thomson (Eds.), The oral history reader, pp. 48–58. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge.
  • Schacter, D. L. (March, 1999). The Seven Sins of Memory. American Psychologist 54, 3, 182–203.
  • Stevenson, D. (2013). The city. Cambridge [UK]; Malden, Mass.: Polity. [Emotional City, pp. 96-97, 104-110, 118-119]
  • Unknown. (2017). Unknown Warrior. Westminster Abbey. From http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/unknown-warrior
  • Winter, J. & Sivan, E. (1999). War and remembrance in the twentieth century. Cambridge [UK]: Cambridge University Press. [Setting the Framework, pp. 6–39].
  • Winter, J. (2006). Remembering war: The Great War between memory and history in the twentieth century. New Haven: Yale University Press. [War memorials: A social agency interpretation, pp. 135-153]
  • Yoshida, T. (2008). For the nation or for the people? History and memory of the Nanjing Massacre in Japan. In S. Saaler & W. Schwentker (Eds.), The power of memory in modern Japan, pp. 17–31. Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental.

Required Website

Recommended Reading

  • Appleby, J., Hunt, L., & Jacob, M. (1995). Telling the truth about history. New York: Norton.
  • Guenther, K. (2002). Memory. In Levitin, D. J. (Ed.), Foundations of cognitive psychology: Core readings, pp. 311–59. Cambridge, Mass.; New York: MIT Press.
  • Müller, J. –W. (Ed.). (2002). Memory and power in post-war Europe: Studies in the presence of the past. Cambridge [UK]: Cambridge University Press.
  • Thompson, P. (2000). The voice of the past: Oral history (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Winter, J. (2006). Remembering war: The great war between memory and history in the twentieth century. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor D.M. Pomfret
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2865
Email: pomfretd@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr B. Schneider
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2873
Email: bschneid@hku.hk